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Avoiding Cowboy Plumbers

By David Holmes on August 18, 2008

The last thing you want when you have a plumbing job that needs doing is to hire the services of cowboy plumbers. These dishonest tradesmen regularly pass themselves off as reputable plumbers but then go on to provide sub-standard work for the price you pay. So how do you tell who is honest and who is the cowboy? The following 10 point guide will hopefully help you to decide:

  1. Reputable plumbers will be able to provide credentials and certificates if you ask for them. They may also show that they are members of the trade association ‘Institute of Plumbers’. There is no law to say that plumbers have to be members of the association, however, those that take pride in their work as honest plumbers will almost certainly have membership.
  2. When you ask for a written quotation, honest plumbers won’t have a problem providing one but cowboy plumbers may only offer a verbal quote or a scribbled note with some figures written on it and in these cases you should avoid using their services.
  3. You should also ask to see their Certificate of Public Liability Insurance. Any plumber without this type of insurance is sure to be a cowboy plumber.
  4. Most reputable plumbers will also be able to supply the names, addresses and phone numbers of past customers that are willing to vouch for the quality of their work. Cowboy plumbers on the other hand will probably make excuses why they can’t provide suitable references.
  5. Most tradesmen today, and this includes plumbers, offer a standard contract that guarantees the work they do in return for the agreed payment. Cowboy plumbers almost certainly won’t offer this extra service which means their work will in no way be guaranteed should something go wrong with it later on.
  6. Along with the standard contract, honest plumbers will also offer some form of insurance-backed warranty on the work that they do.
  7. Quality plumbers are normally booked up for weeks or even months in advance. This means that if a plumber says he can start tomorrow then he probably isn’t the kind of plumber that people recommend or return to for a second time.
  8. Good plumbers are often recommended by customers to their friends and family whereas cowboy plumbers aren’t. If someone you know recommends a plumber by name then he is probably worth taking a look at.
  9. When having plumbing work done, you shouldn’t be asked to pay anything in advance. If you are asked for payment up front then the plumber is probably a cowboy. The same goes if they ask for payment in cash and don’t offer a receipt for the money.
  10. Legitimate plumbers will be able to provide you with a business or home address and a land line phone number as well as their mobile number. If they can’t provide this information then you should look elsewhere.


With a bit of common sense and forethought it is quite easy to spot cowboy plumbers. Saying this, thousands of people fall prey to them every year and so it is advisable to use a recommended plumber before you go searching through the local phone book for one.